‘Dogs are people too’ is the mantra local dog walker, Megan Mossop, lives her life on.
Mossop is the owner of MegWalks Canine Services, a local dog walking service that specializes in group training walks to help shape furry friends into well-mannered and socialized family pets.
MegWalks began just over five years ago after Mossop noticed a gap in post-adoption support. She wanted to develop a resource for families and dog owners that was both affordable and available on a daily basis.
For Mossop, a love of dogs consumed her at a very young age.
“[Dogs] were never a part of my family life, but I was a natural,” she said. “I was about 12-years-old when I started begging the local animal shelters to let me volunteer.”
Mossop has been working with dogs ever since. After volunteering for numerous shelters and rescues through her teenage years and into her 20s, she began to notice a need for additional support, so she started working for kennels and various training centres as well.
“I was seeing a lot of dogs being returned from homes for various reasons, so I wanted to go to the next step. But even then, I was still seeing gaps where people were struggling with this work at home. You can teach a dog something in a building and continue to do it every week, but in order to implement it at home, you need to go home and apply it,” Mossop said.
Mossop realized that it was common for anybody with a full-time job — let alone a family and other commitments — to struggle to balance their busy lives along with the needs of their furry family member.
So she quit her job and started walking dogs full time.
Mossop focused her program on not just dog walking, but adding in training aspects on a daily basis as well. It didn’t take long before she started noticing the benefits.
“I wanted to be that resource for people. With us, their dogs are being worn out, so their physical needs are being met. But they are being mentally stimulated as well. We teach the dogs to have boundaries and learn how to react in different situations,” said Mossop.
MegWalks offers various program options, from three-hour AdventureWalks to low impact strolls for dogs with mobility issues, or those who are smaller or need special care. They also offer private walks for dogs that require special attention or don’t socialize well with other animals.
Mossop and her right hand ‘pack leader,’ Jennifer Livingstone, work personally with every dog. Between the two of them, they know all of the dogs, their temperaments and their boundaries. MegWalks takes in dogs of all ages, from puppies to end of life care.
“We take the brunt of it, because we have a blast with it,” said Mossop. “We really get to see the dogs grow and learn the longer they are with us.”
Every morning, Mossop and Livingstone sit down and organize the dogs into the right group based on variables such as timing, temperaments, age, on-leash and off-leash abilities, among others. They even try to match the dogs with their friends. They call it the “dog puzzle.”
“Dogs are like people in the way that they are social. They need to be social. If a human was locked inside all the time, they’d shut down. Dogs do, too,” said Mossop.
MegWalks works with anywhere from 25 to 30 dogs a day, and Mossop is hoping to expand her services to evenings and weekends eventually as well.
Rain or shine, sleet, snow, and everything in between, Mossop and her pack leaders will be out on some adventure with their canine heard. Some days they will tackle the mountain, and others they will stroll through Canadian Tire or on leash downtown.
Like any job, there are good days and bad days. MegWalks’ vans are constantly filthy and full of mud, and Mossop has spent days diving in four feet of snow, splashing up the Beaver River, and once even got a bloody nose from a dog that was extra excited to see her.
“There is no such thing as a bad dog, just dogs who are trying to do the best they can. I wish we were able to share even a tenth of the cuteness overload we get every day,” said Mossop. “We spend our days having fun, playing with dogs. We want to keep them engaged and learning through structure, but also adventure.”
Mossop’s number one goal with MegWalks is to keep dogs in the home. She wants to support families who are struggling in any way she can, so the dog can live a happy and full life as a member of that family.
“If people have the resources, fewer dogs will end up in shelters,” she said.
Mossop balances her business while taking care of three dogs and two kids of her own, but she goes above and beyond for her clients if they ever need it.
“This community is fantastic because a lot of our clients are friends so their dogs are friends. They go out with their doggy friends and it’s a big social thing, or the dogs will walk down the street and see a friend from ‘class’ and get excited. It’s funny,” said Mossop.
For Mossop, every day is a new adventure. It’s physically and mentally hard, and her Fit Bit numbers are off the charts, but she said it’s worth it.
“You don’t need to hear it from the humans, because you see the benefits in the dogs, you see their progress. But to also hear from the families how the dogs are integrating into their lives, it’s awesome,” Mossop said.